Medical Malpractice

ABA Sends Letter to House Objecting to 'Troubling Tort Reform Language' in Medical Bill

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The ABA has sent a letter to the members of the U.S. House of Representatives objecting to “troubling tort reform language” in a bill regulating medical malpractice suits.

The House debated the bill on Wednesday and will likely pass the legislation this afternoon after considering amendments, according to The Hill’s Floor Action Blog.

The bill is H.R. 5, the “Protecting Access to Healthcare Act.” If enacted without revision, the ABA says in its letter (PDF), the bill would:

• Cap noneconomic damages at $250,000 in health-care suits. According to a prior ABA letter, the ABA opposes compensatory damages caps at the state or federal level.

• Empowers courts to reduce contingent fees and to redirect damages to plaintiffs. The ABA opposes special restrictions on contingent fees in med-mal cases.

• Creates a “fair share” rule in which each party would be liable only for its share of any damages, pre-empting state laws that call for joint and several liability. The ABA opposes federal pre-emption of medical malpractice laws. But the association does support modifying state laws so that “defendants whose responsibility is substantially disproportionate to liability for the entire loss suffered by the plaintiff are to be held liable for only their equitable share of the plaintiff’s noneconomic loss.”

• Abolish the collateral-source rule, which bars evidence that a plaintiff has received insurance proceeds or other benefits from third parties. The ABA supports retention of the rule while allowing third parties who have furnished monetary benefits to plaintiffs to seek reimbursement out of the recovery.

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